Sunday, May 3, 2009

Farming/Language Micro-Dispersals in the Titicaca Basin

The SAAs were a lot of fun, and very productive. My paper presented an alternative model to the standard Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis scenario associated with Bellwood, Renfrew, etc. The idea is that in certain situations, such as pertained in most of the New World, farming was likely to spread much more rapidly by cultural than by demic diffusion. We can expect that this would produce a chain-like arrangement of small-scale demic expansions that ultimately constrain one another. I call these faming/language micro-dispersals. In this scenario no clear LBK-like spread zone is produced. Rather, we get a patchwork of early farming cultures, a high level of linguistic and cultural diversity, and a high degree of local cultural continuity across the transition to agriculture. The map above outlines how I think this played out in the Formative Titicaca Basin.

The process is very different from the standard Homeland/Spread Zone scenario that archaeologists have come to expect based on our understanding of the Indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu language expansions. If this sort if micro-dispersal was common in the New World, it would help explain why Bellwood's (2005) attempt to identify LBK-like expansions in the Americas met with such limited success.


Bandy, Matthew S. 2009. Farming/language micro-dispersals in southern Andean prehistory. Paper presented at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Atlanta, GA.

Bellwood, Peter. 2005. First Farmers. London, Blackwell.

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